Point-of-use soil diagnostics : an actionable information system for resource constrained farmers
Actionable information system for resource constrained farmers
Technology and Policy Program.
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During the mid-1960s, India came to the brink of an acute food crisis in the midst of heavy dependence on food imports. A period of rapid agricultural modernization that followed, known as Green Revolution, transformed India from a net importer of food into an exporter. Although an appropriate response for abating the impending starvation, the Green Revolution inflicted several unintended consequences. For example, regulatory structure and fertilizer subsidies for urea that were designed to stimulate growth instead resulted in a lock-in, which in turn incentivized vast over-fertilization across the country. Today, this is a well-recognized problem, and the Government of India has announced policies and schemes such as the National Soil Health Card Scheme to increase knowledge of soil condition and curb fertilizer use. In reality, however, the current need for information on soil health far exceeds the capacity for soil testing, highlighting the need for a radical approach to meeting this policy objective. This project, undertaken in collaboration with MIT Mechanical Engineering, takes a two-part approach to addressing this problem, with the design of a point-of-use soil testing sensor and an accompanying recommendation generation engine. This thesis presents the design of the latter based upon the answer to the following question: what constitutes an actionable information for resource constrained farmers? To answer it, we use a mixed methodology approach comprising (i) a combination of stakeholder interviews and design workshops to elicit user needs, and (ii) controlled experimentation with over 200 farmers covering an entire village to measure the actionability of information in soil health recommendations. The results of the analysis of experimental data reveal that the actionability of recommendations varies significantly within the population of farmers tested, and can be attributed to the level of information provided, the environment in which a farmer receives a recommendation, gender, and education level. Consequently, an effective point-of-use diagnostic system must adjust for these factors in order to maintain high actionability. To that end, we then use the experimental results to design a recommendation generation engine, the core of which is a soil health database that maximizes the actionability of information for a resource constrained farmer.
Thesis: S.M. in Technology and Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Engineering, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Technology and Policy Program, 2016.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-79).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute for Data, Systems, and Society; Technology and Policy Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Institute for Data, Systems, and Society., Engineering Systems Division., Technology and Policy Program.